Hill House and beyond – Trinity celebrates author Shirley Jackson

Posted on: 14 December 2021

A free online symposium exploring the considerable revival of interest in the work of American author Shirley Jackson Trinity College Dublin is being held in Trinity College Dublin today, Tuesday, 14 December 2021.

Hosted by Trinity’s School of English and supported by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, ‘Reading Shirley Jackson in the Twenty-First Century’ will hear how Jackson’s critical and cultural standing have in recent years been transformed by a surge of academic and popular interest resulting in the ‘Jackson Renaissance’ and confirming her as one of the leading American writers of our time.

The symposium combines live online panels  with a conference website featuring pre-recorded panels, discussions, essays, and video and audio material, which attendees can view in their own time. This asynchronous material, which is available here, includes such contributions as a presentation on Shirley Jackson’s writings for younger readers; the challenges of adapting Shirley Jackson for film and television; and an exploration of haunted and contagious spaces in The Haunting of Hill House.

“Jackson’s gender, her ability to evade conventional critical and generic categorisation, and her commercial success during her lifetime meant that she was often denied the respect – and the attention – afforded to many of her contemporaries. Now after decades of relative critical neglect, Jackson’s critical and cultural standing has been transformed by a surge of academic and popular interest,” explains Dr Bernice M. Murphy from Trinity’s School of English, who was the academic consultant on the recently published The Letters of Shirley Jackson (July 2021), edited by Jackson’s eldest son, Laurence Jackson Hyman. 

While Jackson is still best known for classic supernatural horror novel  The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and her infamous 1948 short story ‘The Lottery’, her work also encompassed psychological thrillers, domestic humour, children’s writing, and short fiction, as well as cultural commentaries and advice for budding writers.

Penguin has now re-published her novels and stories in new editions as part of their ‘Modern Classics’ imprint. In 2016, Ruth Franklin’s award-winning biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, inspired numerous reconsiderations of her oeuvre and literary significance. A long-awaited film adaptation of her cult novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) – filmed in Ireland – was released in 2018, as was the high-profile Netflix TV series inspired by The Haunting of Hill HouseHandmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss also played an on-screen version of Jackson in a film adaptation of Susan Scarfe Merrell’s 2014 novel Shirley in 2020, which fictionalises the author and her marriage to academic and critic Stanley Edgar Hyman. 

The conference is organised Dr Bernice M. Murphy (School of English), Janice Deitner (Provost’s PhD Award funded student in the School of English) and Dr Dara Downey (Trinity Access Programme lecturer and former Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow based in the Trinity Long Room Hub). The event is part of the 2018/19 Provost’s PhD Award project, ‘Beyond Hill House: New Perspectives on Shirley Jackson’. Supervisor: Bernice Murphy, Award Holder: Janice Deitner 

Registration is free and open to all, but every attendee must register here: https://www.tcd.ie/trinitylongroomhub/whats-on/details/event.php?eventid=156735347

Conference webpage:https://shirleyjackson21stcentury.wordpress.com


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